A poignant cry from Nooruddean Choudry in the Guardian.
as a British Muslim, I am unsettled by the sight of England supporters dressed as Christian knights and jovially waving Crusader shields at the European championships in Poland and Ukraine. Footage of last night's cagey opener with France was interspersed with close-ups of young men dressed in the armour of Knights Templar hordes. There's an irony in the fact that images of Polish supporters chanting antisemitic slogans and giving Nazi salutes have been met with such deserved outrage, but to brandish a sword and recall the brutal and bloody invasion of Muslim lands is portrayed as harmless banter.
He is clear he doesn't think the fans mean to offend. But:
... for Muslims they are remembered as two centuries of brutal and unprovoked attacks on Arab lands. To celebrate this in fancy dress recalls a bloody and divisive chapter in Muslim-Christian relations ...
We have seen already seen BBC's Panorama "Stadiums of Hatred" revealing shocking new evidence of racist violence and anti-semitism at the heart of Polish and Ukrainian footbal; been troubled by monkey chants now in both practice and games; and seen shocking scenes of Polish and Russian fans clashing before their game tonight. So is it not a bit churlish to focus on centuries old memories?
I don't think so. It doesn't take a Muslim to be sensitive to these painful cultural memories. I am not calling for political correctness to rise up again.This is not about rules and regulations, its rather about being sensitive to how people feel about things like that. Too often now on our streets that same garb is to be found at English Defence League (EDL) demonstrations, and so to be associated with the anger, hatred and violence of that movement to Muslims. Bearing in mind the regular cry of the EDL for Muslims to integrate it is therefore rather ironic that for Choudry at least it works the other way.
... I am sure the whole Crusader-fancy-dress-thing is done in all innocence. But in the context of the English Defence League and their anti-Islam rhetoric it doesn't exactly fill me with patriotic fervour. It makes me feel Muslim, rather than English, and I'd much rather feel both.
I am reminded of the way that in Northern Ireland the continued memorialisation of the bitter moments of history Orange Parades and bonfires around July 12th, and murals around the city, all work against reconciliation and integration. The impact of Choudry's comment piece then is to leave us with a greater challenge than merely dealing with racism and the far right in football. We have to create new stories and symbols speaking of our mulicultural society that find their way to the heart of the culture of the terraces.